Cutler Beats Favre at His Own Game
Favre weaved his way to the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason with a head-spinning yes-no-yes-no-yes flip-flop over exiting retirement. Cutler spun his way out of the Denver Broncos franchise and, in many circles afterward, was deemed petulant.
Both have shared insights on these things with each other.
On Monday night here, they shared the same field.
It was an overtime thriller, just the kind of game you would expect from two high-strung, high-handed, emotional quarterbacks who can dial it, whip it, rope it from anywhere on the field. The last lasso came from Cutler, a 39-yard dart over cornerback Antoine Winfield into the hands of receiver Devin Aromashodu that lifted the Bears to a 36-30 victory.
The Bears had lost two straight and six of their last seven games. Cutler had been reeling through this Bears season -- Chicago is now 6-9 after Monday night's win -- entering this game with 25 interceptions and leaving it with 26.
But his victory over the now 11-4 Vikings -- and particularly over Favre -- soothes open wounds. It was a four-touchdown passing night for Cutler, two more than Favre.
For Favre, the game could not commence fast enough. He had been in a tornado last week over his play-calling, his audibles, his affront to the coaching of Brad Childress. Childress let Favre lead on the field in this do-it-your-way manner through a 10-1 start. But after losses to the Cardinals and Panthers in two of the Vikings' last three games, Childress tried to reign in Favre. Favre shoved back. Both say their differences have been solved.
But now a third loss in their last four games could cut deeper.
Instead of moving closer to the Saints and a chance to be the NFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Vikings are now in jeopardy of losing the No. 2 seed to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Minnesota is following the latest NFC script: the Vikings and Saints started fast, but now as the playoffs approach, both are struggling, playing as if they peaked too soon.
Vikings monster defensive end Jared Allen said it best: Winning is great; losing sucks.
"If I could cuss right now, I would,'' Allen said. "I mean, we're playing bad right now. We've got to play better.''
He was talking about the Vikings defense more than the offense -- but for all Favre and Minnesota's offense accomplished, it wasted two overtime possessions and shots at victory. The first ended in a three-and-out flop. The second ended in an Adrian Peterson fumble at the Vikings 39. Cutler-to-Aromashodu won it on the next play.
Peterson took all of the blame.
He said that, after his 16-yard catch-and-run, he was fighting for more when Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer forced the ball out and linebacker Nick Roach recovered. There was plenty more blame to go around despite this game's big plays and big points and overmatched defenses.
Bottom line was Favre and Cutler would decide it.
The Vikings trailed 3-0 after one quarter and 16-0 at halftime. They used a 30-point second half to finally catch the Bears, the kicker a Favre-to-Sidney Rice scoring pass on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
"I don't know what kick-started it,'' Favre said. "The second half, we obviously threw the ball better. I would love to be peaking right now. If we put two halves together like we did in the second half, it's a different story.''
A tale of two halves, Childress called it.
And it was a tale of two quarterbacks.
Favre has already led Minnesota into the playoffs. He has helped cement quarterback play for the Vikings, helped Childress secure a contract extension, and continued his penchant for on-field an off-field drama. Cutler, the young, promising quarterback who, at times, has seemed aloof and too reliant on his football gifts, is at his best when he plays naturally, calmly and with less risk.
"Through all the ups and downs of this season, the tough plays, the turnovers, and the way the offense hasn't performed, this type of win is good for the team and good for morale,'' Culter said. "Going out there, putting up points, answering the bell, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime -- we had to do it.''
Favre and the Vikings wait for the Giants to visit on Sunday, and for the playoffs to commence afterward.
The Vikings will need Favre to be refreshed, renewed for the playoffs. Maybe this clash against his younger peer will do that for him.
Cutler beat him the way Favre has made a living out of beating other quarterbacks.
Cutler beat him feeding off the energy of the challenge. Off of the bright lights of Monday night football. The Vikings need Favre to continue to give them energy, something special.
"I'm sure that Brett is one of the guys that Cutler looks up to,'' Winfield said. "I'm sure they've had a lot of talks about a lot of things. I just think our team needs to slow down and take each day for what it brings and stop looking too far ahead. I think that is what is getting our team in trouble. Our defense needs to help put Brett and the offense in better situations. We've got to get back to feeding off each others' energy.''